Paul Horton: I was more of the outdoors type of kid, and that translated really well into the Air Force, because my job wound up involving ground combat, and being outside all the time. My current role in the Air Force is an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Master Craftsman. I’m a member of a very small team that neutralizes any explosive, chemical, biological, radioactive, or any other potentially hazardous situation.
I make sure that I have the manpower and resources to execute these missions; training my guys, making sure that they can do dismount operations, air assault operations, route clearance, integrate with the Army, the Air Force, the Marines, and the Navy, as a joint unit, and attack any target. Make sure that our guys can get in and out safely.
Part of our duties is assisting the Secret Service, protecting the president and other dignitaries and heads of state. Protecting them is a pretty huge responsibility, and it fills you with a lot of pride. On the mission, obviously, the attention to detail, and the pressure is pretty, pretty high. But whenever you’re done, you’re very, very proud. Not only did you make sure that our president was safe and that he was able to execute his diplomatic mission, but a lot of times, that’s supporting something like the UN General Assembly, or the singing of a treaty, or an Olympics, and to know that you were part of that historic event is pretty amazing.
When I came back from my tour in 2009, I’d been serving up in the Korangal Valley. I had survived an RPG attack after a 97-minute firefight. And although I was beat up and a little wounded, they nominated me to be one of the national heroes of the country. I got to go to the White House, and go into the Blue Room. And I was standing there, right in front of the president and the First Lady. It was a very big moment for me, to just see our president and our First Lady, and to have them talk to me like a regular person, and to, you know, tell me they were very proud of me and my accomplishments. The president chose to have us 20 heroes walk out on the balcony with him as he gave his Independence Day speech. And that moment, as we walked out onto the balcony, and the crowd went crazy, and the cameras were filming, it was a moment that I will never, ever, ever forget. I never thought I could be a person that would walk out and be declared a hero by our president